California racing associations that operate meets of at least four continuous weeks would be required to install a synthetic racing surface by the end of 2007 or face a loss of dates, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) decided Feb. 16.

After hearing Craig Fravel, executive vice president at Del Mar, give a report on progress on the proposed installation of Polytrack at the seaside track, chairman Richard Shapiro surprised the 100 or so at the CHRB meeting in Arcadia with his motion to require all the major racing venues in the state to make the switch. It was approved unanimously. The new regulation must be weighed for a 45-day public comment period before the board can finalize it.

Shapiro said later that he was referring to only Thoroughbred tracks. That means Cal Expo, which hosts harness racing and rarely has a breakdown, and Quarter Horse venue Los Alamitos are not required to install new racing surfaces.

“We cannot afford, in my opinion, not to move forward with this,” Shapiro said, noting that there had been more than 240 fatalities of California horses at tracks between 2003 and 2005. He said that the board will assist in identifying potential funding souces and help push any legislative support required.

Trainer Howard Zucker, head of the track safety committee in Southern California, complained prior to the vote there “are way too many problems” with the racing surface at Santa Anita Park after earlier praising the effort of Magna Entertainment Corp. to fix the track.

Afterward, he said it was a “thrill” to see the CHRB take action. “It brought a tear to my eye,” Zucker said. “I think three years ago you couldn’t have gotten a hearing. But this is a quality board–they’ve brought things out in the open.”

In December, the CHRB heard Zucker and a number of other trainers complain about th